Duo make international debuts
Posted by nickogs20 on June 15, 2009
As the 2008/09 season effectively drew to a close with one last batch of international games over the past couple of weeks, two United youngsters represented their country’s senior side for the first time – Belgium’s Ritchie de Laet, and Northern Ireland’s Corry Evans.
Fresh from his surprise debut in the Reds’ final league game against Hull City, de Laet was drafted into the Belgium squad by Franky Vercauteren that travelled to Japan to take part in the Kirin Cup at the end of May. That squad had something of an experimental look to it, with anyone still with club duties to fulfil being omitted – anyone from Standard and Anderlecht therefore missed out, as did anyone playing in the French or Spanish top divisions, while Marouane Fellaini was otherwise occupied with the FA Cup Final.
The Kirin Cup’s triangular format saw Belgium pitted against their Japanese hosts and Chile, both those countries warming up for World Cup qualifying matches. de Laet, assigned the number 17 shirt for the tournament, made his debut from the bench as a half-time substitute for Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Filip Daems in the Red Devils’ first game against Chile, going close to scoring with a header as the game ended 1-1.
With Japan having hammered the Chileans 4-0, Vercauteren’s men knew they were up against it to beat the home favourites and win the cup, and so it proved – Takeshi Okada’s side dishing out another 4-0 humbling to a Belgian side that this time saw de Laet start and complete the full ninety minutes. All in all, not the most successful trip in terms of results but more great experience for the United defender, who must be pinching himself after a fairytale finish to a season that saw him go from playing for Wrexham in the Blue Square Premier to representing his country.
Fairytale is probably a fair description of Corry Evans’ season as well. The 18 year-old was a solid performer for the academy last season but little more. Fast forward a year and things are very different for the Belfast midfielder. At club level, he stepped into the breach when Ole Solskjaer was lacking centre-halves and went on to perform outstandingly over the course of the season, racking up the most second-string appearances of anybody, captaining the side in the second half of the campaign and lifting two trophies. He even found himself on the first-team bench for the last Premier League game of the season. His progress on the international stage with Northern Ireland has been similarly rapid, with Corry picking up caps at U19, U21, B and, ultimately, senior level.
That senior international cap, following in the footsteps of his elder brother Jonny, came in NI’s friendly with world champions Italy in Pisa last Saturday. Both countries fielded experimental sides, with Nigel Worthington’s side particularly lacking in experienced internationals, and while the obvious gulf in class was evident in the 3-0 win for the Italians (former Red Giuseppe Rossi getting the opener), no-one on the visiting team disgraced themselves. Indeed, Corry was one of the standout performers, competing well in the midfield against such luminaries as Rino Gattuso and showing several nice touches, enough to indicate that he may remain in or around the senior squad when more established names return to the fold next season.